Breeders' Cup Classic preview: California Chrome is awesome again

On October 1, just a couple of hours before UofL played its historic football scrum with Clemson, a former Derby winner was taking another step into horse racing history.

California Chrome (remember him) won the well named Awesome Again Stakes as his final step toward the Breeders' Cup Classic. 

Deep into his 5-year-old season, California Chrome is making an impact on the sport like no other Kentucky Derby champion.

For Chrome and trainer Art Sherman, winning the Kentucky Derby was just the beginning. It took a while for the rest of the story to develop.

Chrome's popularity faded a bit with a fourth place in the Belmont Stakes followed by sour grapes from an owner who somehow felt the Triple Crown was rigged.

A tired Chrome got a third in the Breeders' Cup Classic and he was still named Horse of the Year in 2014. But soon that record was lost in the glitter of American Pharoah's Triple Crown the very next spring.

While Pharaoh was the center of the racing universe, California Chrome departed on a globetrotting odyssey that saw him take second in the Dubai World Cup and then suffer an injury before Royal Ascot in England.

While Pharoah won the Breeders' Cup, Chrome was in recovery.

But with new partial ownership by Taylor Made Farm, the new group set out to embellish Chrome's racing record before he heads to the breeding shed.

They set an ambitious schedule and they struck gold. With six wins in a row, this year including the Dubai World Cup, Chrome has now won more than $13.4 million, more than any horse in history.

Late this summer, Chrome added the Grade One Pacific Classic and the Awesome Again Stakes. At Del Mar he beat the great mare Beholder, who was a distant second. And at Santa Anita, he beat Dortmund in an absolute romp.
Sure, American Pharaoh had one great season, but California Chrome is approaching a three-year career of epic proportions.

You can mention Chrome in the same sentence with Citation, Native Dancer, Secretariat, and Zenyatta. Let me count the ways.  Chrome is sis for six this year with earnings over $7 million. Three of those wins are Grade Ones.

His 3-year-old season, of course, produced wins in the Santa Anita Derby, the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness, plus the California Derby on the grass.

The owners are probably hoping that Chrome's incredible accomplishments on the track will overcome his California breeding and his modest pedigree.

But his sire is Lucky Pulpit and his breeding has A. P. Indy on the top of the pedigree and Mr. Prospector on the female side. In addition, California Chrome has certainly proven that he can run a classic distance.

And he has one more to run. The Breeders' Cup is a month away and this may be California Chrome's last race in the spotlight.

He is one of those adorable freaks that come along now and then in thoroughbred racing.  There are one-race wonders like Mine That Bird,  but California Chrome keeps running and running.

A win in the Breeders' Cup Classic will push his earnings over 15 million.  Not bad for a Derby champion who was literally forgotten last year, and made his biggest mark as a 5-year-old.

The Breeders' Cup Classic may be a little short on numbers this year but the biggest challenge for California Chrome, could be a late developing 3-year-old, the lightly raced old Arrogate.

Arrogate went from unknown horse to track record holder when he won the Travers Stakes this summer at Saratoga. The new record for a mile and a quarter at the Spa is 1:59.36. That's Secretariat territory.

But here's a caution. Arrogate is a son of Unbridled's Song and was a late arrival in the 3-year-old season. And Unbridled's Song offspring are known to be prone to injury. Still, If Arrogate runs the same race in the Breeders' Cup that he ran in the Travers, everybody will be running for second place.

The Classic field could also contain Met Mile winner Frosted, Arkansas Derby winner, Gun Runner, and this year's Derby winner Nyquist.

But Nyquist, who ran third in the Preakness, followed that with a fourth place in the Haskell and and sixth in the Pennsylvania Derby.

The last three races seem to indicate a tired horse. And Nyquist will face a California Chrome at the top of his game. And while we're on this theme, too bad, American Pharoah didn't run as a 4 year old.

Wouldn't you love three Derby champs in one race? That would be too good to be true.

But we do have California Chrome, who could become the first Derby champ to win the Breeders' Cup as a five year old. His connections may get to celebrate like it's 2014 all over again.


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